Every year, approximately 45,000 people lose their lives through the act of suicide, making this the tenth leading cause of death across America. Statistics show that it is more common for men to go through with self-harm and be successful than women. In the military, suicide rates have been significantly increasing over the years. This is the second cause of death in the United States military, majority involving the use of firearms due to the easy access of these weapons. According to an article from “Uniformed Services University: Center for Deployment Psychology”, “the most common individual stressors identified for both military suicide decedents and military suicide attempts were relationship problems, administrative/legal issues and workplace difficulties.” This does not include any undergoing medical conditions or the effects an individual goes through during and after deployment. A major example of this would be that only thirty to forty percent of veterans out of more than 2.5 million active duty members who were deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11 have asked for help relating to their mental health. This is due to the impact of what is known as the military’s masculine culture, making these men feel as though they are to push through everything and continuing to be tough throughout every aspect of life, truly causing more harm in the end. Military masculinity in relation to our men’s mental health has a great influence, resulting in the number of suicides to continually rise.
Masculinity is separated into four categories: hegemony, subordination, complicity, and marginalization. Hegemony rules over all forms of masculinity and femininity because it motivates men to display identity traits consisting of violence, aggression, toughness, and many more characteristic qualities pertaining to this kind of manner. Due to one of the major objectives of the military standing for the protection of woman and children, every soldier must not represent or demonstrate any feminine-like attributes.
Hence the reason why the military break down men so much to the point where they no longer even uphold their original identity as a normal civilian. When men first undergo training, the majority of the practice is to eliminate all femininity qualities about one’s character. Once this process is complete, then that individual is now the definition of a “true man” in the eyes of the military system. Therefore, because of cultural masculinity and the pressure society puts upon people to follow specific gender identities, military masculinity has surfaced and shaped the way in which the military teaches our men how to think and behave. Military masculinity is a form of hegemonic masculinity. As a result of military service, this type of masculinity is assembled. Among various societies, it is thought that boys become men through the initiation process into the military institution. Militarized masculinity adds to the achievement of power and violence. Masculinity itself is not necessarily “violent” but by going through military service, this becomes the outcome. This form of masculinity molded and maintained within this environment shaped the idea of the construction about the ‘other’.
As stated in “Tough Obedience: How is Militarized Masculinity Linked with Violence in the Army”, “Gender theory makes use of comparisons to construct the binary opposition between masculinity and femininity. Just as the soldier is conditioned to consider the enemy as the “other” – someone who does not deserve to live – and thereby justifying the destruction of the enemy through violence and killing, so is the same logic used to justify eradicating femininity to make it possible for militarized masculinity to occur. It follows that the army is a system in which the soldier is being taught to use violence as a means of destroying the ‘other’, where that ‘other’ can be just as much perceived as the enemy both within the same army unit or beyond it. Femininity – perceived as the total opposite of masculinity – becomes the “enemy other”, which needs to be dominated and destroyed.” (Abrahamyan, 2017) Thus, the role of a soldier consists of demonstrating the capabilities to obey commands from higher ranks and illustrate strength in every aspect of service.